From the National President – September 2012

I have just returned from the opening week of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, where the Australian Pavilion received an excellent response, with more than 5,000 visitors to the Formations exhibition in the first few days.

In a place like Venice it is not hard to understand the power of place, and the power of architecture. We are all deeply affected by the places we inhabit and experience, which impact on our health, our interactions with others, our psyche and spirit. Excellent architecture, or even simply good architecture, is so important because it can dramatically improve people’s lives. It enriches the human condition in fundamental and sophisticated ways.

Architects also extend innovative thinking and an irrepressible optimism to projects which are not ‘architecture’, in the traditional sense. The Formations exhibition draws attention to, and applauds the incredible breadth and reach of diverse architectural approaches. It exposes the work many Australian Architects are doing beyond architecture in that traditional sense… significant work which extends our contribution to this place – our world – and to people’s lives.

The Biennale as a whole provides us with a glimpse of our work from a global perspective, a perspective which highlights the outstanding and diverse work that Australian architects do. It is also a place where we can see and be inspired by the work of our international peers, where we can glean shared and varied ideas, meanings and values which underpin architecture around the world.

Back in Australia, and on the matter of diversity in practice, I’m pleased to announce that the Institute is now an official member of the Diversity Council Australia (DCA), an independent, not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia. This initiative will assist the Institute through access to leading diversity research, thinking and practice and will enable diversity management in our dynamic environment. It will also help us assist members to gain the benefits of diversity in their own organisations. Leaders in this area continue to demonstrate that effective diversity management leads to significant business benefits, with clear links to improvements in organisational performance, effectiveness, profitability and revenue generation. The Institute will keep members informed of further developments and CPD events which will flow from this initiative.

Looking ahead, the National Architecture Awards will take place in Perth on Thursday 1 November at Midland Railway Workshops. The site includes a collection of early 20th century buildings in Perth’s north-east, and its redevelopment is a good example of adaptive re-use of post-industrial heritage. It will be a great night and I encourage you to attend. Closer still is the World Architecture Festival, which takes place in Singapore in October – the first time the WAF has been held in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s another opportunity to highlight Australia’s architectural talent, with particular reference to our central role in the Asia Pacific marketplace, and to reinforcing bonds with our friends, counterparts and colleagues within the Asia-Pacific region.

Shelley Penn